I have discovered a new approach recently and it is one that might surprise you. After 12 years of teaching music history, I decided one day to go into class and instead of my normal enthusiasm for the topic, I told them that we were going to hear the story of Mozart today and frankly…it is a real bummer. I told them that honestly I wasn’t quit sure I wanted to tell it again. I wasn’t sure I could tell them this story of an extremely gifted young man, who never gets the recognition he deserves and dies in the prime of his life…and so maybe we just shouldn’t do it.
And so, what began to happen, and it was glorius to witness, was the entire class slowly started to try and convince me they were up to it.
I said things like; “No, I don’t think we should do it…it is too close to lunch, it might spoil our appetite.”
or “Maybe we should just skip to Beethoven…now he has a really amazing story.”
So I ask: “Why should we do it? Why should we hear about people who have struggled in life? Won’t that just be depressing?”
Here is what I frequently hear among my young students:
- Because this person is someone of great talent and ability.
- Because hearing about someone’s struggle helps us to feel less alone.
- Because life is hard and we shouldn’t try to candy coat everything.
- Because hearing about him, might help us to become more compassionate.
It was beautiful to see and a real Andy Griffith kind of moment, but I think it is important to note that our young people do not want everything to be happy and upbeat all the time…they want it to be real and relevant. And every time I play the above Lacrimosa, they are touched. So listening to Mozart does make you smarter, but maybe not just because it helps you have higher math scores, but it makes you feel something, helps you to become more sensitive and expressive.
The following quotes are from letters Mozart wrote during his life and the shed light on his devotion to God.
“I prayed to God for His mercy that all might go well, to His greater glory, and the symphony began.”
“By a singular grace of God I endured all with steadfastness and composure. When her illness grew dangerous, I prayed God for two things – only a happy hour of death for my mother and strength and courage for myself. God heard me in His loving kindness, heard my prayer and bestowed the two mercies in largest measure.”
“Papa must not worry, for God is ever before my eyes. I realize His omnipotence and I fear His anger; but I also recognize His love, His compassion, and His tenderness towards His creatures. He will never forsake His own. If it is according to His will, so let it be according to mine. Thus all will be well and I must needs be happy and contented.”
Interesting to note that when you are looking at a Mozart manuscript, you are looking at the original. In other words, he would write the music down directly from his head without any re-working of the music.
As we remember, in our thoughts and prayers, those in the news this week struggling with the loss of loved ones, let us take this moment to listen to Mozart expressing his thoughts in this music as he was dying.
Full of tears shall be that day
- On which from ashes shall arise
- The guilty man to be judged;
- Therefore, O God, have mercy on him.
- Gentle Lord Jesus,
- grant them eternal rest.
- Peace Be With You!